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Great Lakes Article:

Getting rid of garbage, wastewater to cost more
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
Published October 11, 2005

It's going to cost a little more to flush your toilet and take out your trash in 2006.

The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District Board of Directors has approved an operating and capital budget with a 2.8 percent average increase in wastewater rates.

Charged to industry and municipalities, those rates probably will be passed on to homeowners as well, although that decision is up to cities and townships.

The increase follows hikes of nearly 5 percent for 2005 and 3.8 percent the year before.

Most of the increase will be allocated to help the district repay bonds used to pay for new construction under the district's 10-year, $86 million capital project, said Kurt Soderberg, executive director.

Of the district's $21.6 million annual wastewater budget, nearly $7 million is going to pay off debt -- mostly for projects aimed at keeping untreated sewage out of the environment during heavy rains and snowmelt.

The WLSSD and city of Duluth have been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to end all sewage overflows into the environment. In addition to WLSSD improvements, the city is spending millions of dollars on overflow storage tanks and efforts to keep rainwater out of the sanitary sewer system.

Duluth residents can expect their wastewater bill to increase 6 percent during 2006 as the city passes on the WLSSD increase and the city's own increased sewer system repair costs, Soderberg said.

Meanwhile, the WLSSD's solid waste management fee also will increase in 2006 after seven years at the same level. Residents will see a 20 percent hike in the fee that appears as a line on their garbage bill every other month. For a 32-gallon garbage can, the fee will increase from $11.95 per year to $14.55.

In addition, all homeowners within WLSSD boundaries will pay an extra $6 in property taxes, raising them from the current $12 to about $18 per year in a special assessment.

That money will offset increased fees to dump WLSSD garbage at the Sarona, Wis., landfill. It also will help subsidize the WLSSD's materials recovery center, recycling programs, the composting program and household hazardous waste collection center.

Fees charged to garbage collectors that transfer trash at the WLSSD plant increased in July and will not go up again Jan. 1. Current tipping fees are $33.88 per ton.

Consumer rates for disposal or recycling at WLSSD's Materials Recovery Center at the former Rice Lake Landfill site won't change for 2005.

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